Monday, February 27, 2017

A BIRCH TOO FAR


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You could be forgiven for thinking that this is just an ordinary, if ornamental, sign erected by residents at the entrance to two housing estates, Maywood and Bettyglen.

In fact it is a comment on the current state of the Irish language.

I remember in school when you wanted an Irish word for something you went for the one furthest from the English. So we had craolachán (broadcasty thing) instead of raidió (as we now have) and guthán (voicey thing) instead of teileafón (as we have today). Perhaps it is a reflection of our developing self-confidence as a nation and our no longer having to define ourselves with reference to England, that we can now accept words from Latin and Greek roots into the Irish language, and not avoid them just because the English got there first.

That's the good bit.

But, despite the abject failure to revive the Irish language and have it as the vernacular of a significant proportion of the population, the pantomime persists. Everything in English must have an Irish language equivalent, even if it doesn't. And the further from the English version the better, much of the time.

So we have, for example, Sráid Mhóin on the street sign for Anglesey Street while, admittedly the official nomenclature list does not attempt to translate Lord Anglesey's name, just misspell it (Anglesea). These streets named after British Lords should be left alone.

Anyway I've wandered a bit from Maywood and Bettyglen both of which, but particularly the former, should have been left alone.

Maywood is variously translated as Colll Bhealtaine (after the month of May) or Coill Mhuire (after the Blessed Virgin) and there may be cases where one or the other of these is appropriate. But not here, where the name is a contraction of a girl's name - May Catherwood.

Bettyglen also has its Irish language variations, the one above meaning the Glen of the Birch. But it is in fact named after a girl called Betty from among the family who lived in Bettyglen House. So even Gleann Éilíse would have been better in this case.

If this sort of madness amuses you take a look at some more here.

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